Posted January 19, 2021.

Fall Contest Results for Theme: Community

2020 Fall Adult Contest Results for Theme/Community
Judge: Emmett Wheatfall

First Place Winner for Theme: “Friday Night after COVID” by Christen Pagett

We’ll walk to Fitzgerald’s at the corner,
and I’ll order the darkest beer
with the deepest froth
and tip him more than 20%,
even though he’s never smiled at us before.

We’ll meld into the
crush of bodies,
like a tributary,
finding the mouth of its river,
swaying towards the
open mic stage,
like children of a common mother.

And we won’t mind
the warmth radiating off
everyone’s skin,
won’t mind the strange
intimacy of a stranger’s
shoulder brushing ours,
and will grin back when
they smile an apology,
both struck by the tenderness.

Judge’s Note: Metaphorically speaking, the title for every poem should be the match that ignites curiosity. It serves as the window suggesting there is something to behold and invites potential readers to a personal encounter. Friday Night After COVID does just that—invites potential readers to a personal encounter. Contextualized as a 3-stanza poem which is simply perfect for its content. Scansion in a broader sense of the term reveals the fact the poem does not use end-rhymes which better serves the poetic message regarding community. Notice the stanza lengths of 5, 7, and 9. One might wonder if the variable of increasing stanzas by 2 lines is by poetic design. If not, it stands eye catching in a positive manner. Interlaced throughout the poem is the impact of pandemic, a public meeting place, a libation common for encouraging communal gathering, the warmth of human interaction and spirit, and an infraction that does warrant apology during pandemic. This fabulous poem inspires the best of humanity in these the worst of times. It should make readers yearn for Friday nights after COVID.

Poet’s Bio: Christen Pagett is most at home in the Willamette Valley of Oregon where she has been a longtime educator, hoping to inspire teens with the love of language and all the worlds it can open. Most recently, she spends her days pursuing an MFA in poetry at Eastern Oregon University, practicing piano, and trying new recipes on her expanding, beautiful family.

Second Place Winner for Theme: “The Grandmothers Stand” by Linda Appel

Behind their daughters’ yellow wall
the grandmothers are standing
in Portland streets, as once they stood
in Argentina, as they will stand again,
forever in the sadness of the wind.
You may not see the grandmothers,
but we stand behind the protesters,
as witnesses of truth.
You may not hear us shout, but
we lend our presence to the litany
of righteous anger.
We can no longer run and fight,
withstand the fog of tear gas;
but what we lack in youth and strength
we make up for in certitude,
the knowledge of what’s right and wrong,
and what it takes to save the world
Outside the Justice Center
beneath gunmetal clouds,
before a phalanx dark we stand.
Some in spirit, some in body
we are present at this midnight rite
of pretense and provocation.
One by one, sad silent grandmothers gather
to stand, now and forever, in solidarity.
Our time is past and yet we continue
to stand and call, with urgent clarity,
Know justice; know peace
Amen

Judge’s Note: The Grandmothers Stand is a gem worthy of wider distribution and publication. It is timely given the major social justice movement in America called Black Lives Matters. It is safe to assume that when grandma gets upset about something, everybody better pay attention, straighten up and act right. This poem reveals community in an abstract way. The community is that of grandmothers who have come together in common resolve. Other than infants and children, they are the most vulnerable in society. These grandmothers, as characterized in this poem, are willing to place their principles and social convictions about equality and inclusion on the line in a public and demonstrative way. One wonders if they had wooden ladle in hand, with every intent to bring about justice in a way only grandmothers can, equality and inclusion would be a settled issue. Society should pay close attention to when grandmothers speak.

Poet’s Bio: When she moved to Oregon 40 years ago, Linda Knowlton Appel felt she had come home. Now a retired sci-tech librarian, she spends her free time in constant wonder, contemplating the river, the mountain, and the world in which we live. Her poems have appeared in Willawaw Journal, Voicecatcher, and elsewhere; and she has published two chapbooks.

Third Place Winner for Theme: “don’t call us punk because we hate that” by Adam Oyster-Sands

don’t call us punk because we hate that
once we played a show
in a record store
with a band named after
a porn star.
their singer repeatedly declared
he was more punk
than the rest of us
fuckers.
at the end of their set
he proved it
by macing himself
in the face,
collapsing on the floor
in a ball of mucus and tears and screams.
his band stepped over
his writhing body
to join the rest of us
outside smoking cigarettes
in the crisp december air.

Judge’s Note: The poem “don’t call us punk because we hate that” is the kind of poem that gets to the heart of what’s truly poetic. It is in your face kind of poetry, tackling metaphors some would consider sensitive. Historically, the word punk has held the connotation for being derogatory, denoting—other; while over times it has become a cultural term of endearment and identification about a lifestyle that is positive and inclusive. Here, the poet is quite clever weaving together a poetic narrative that makes what some might perceive as negative, a positive. It is masterful how the poet takes a negative and turns it into a positive. The insensitivity of one culminated the formation of a larger sense of community. And expanded form of immediate community was born due to something negative. Despite calamity, people can still find common bond. If only society would look beyond its differences, its indifference, its biases, come together in expanded community, it would make for a better world.

Poet’s Bio: Adam Oyster-Sands is a high school English teacher in Portland, Oregon with an MA in Humanities from the University of Dallas. He is an aging punk rocker who still enjoys trying to land a kickflip, the occasional circle pit, and fucking shit up before 10pm. Adam can also be found hiking up mountains and running through forests with his partner Morgan and their puppies.

Judge’s Bio: Emmett Wheatfall is a poet living in Portland, Oregon where he reads, writes, publishes, and performs poetry. Emmett has published 7 books of poetry, released 1 non-musical poetry CD and 4 musical poetry CDs. His latest published work is Our Scarlet Blue Wounds. For comprehensive biographical and contact information, please visit http://emmettwheatfall.com.

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